Let’s Use our Social Media to Defeat Polio Fatigue!

Recently I was chatting on Facebook with a friend who is a very committed Rotarian, and the topic of polio eradication came up.  I was a little taken aback when my friend told me that he had polio eradication fatigue, due to the seemingly incessant calls for donations.

That got me thinking.   The campaign against polio reached a crunch point during the horrible polio epidemics in the developed world of the 1950s, when fear of the disease drove people from public places. The breakthrough came when Salk produced his lifesaving vaccine. That vaccine and the later oral version developed by Sabin eventually made polio history in the First World.  Parents could breathe easier.

A child in a wheelchair with 4 adult men

Parents in the western world can breathe easier.

Polio was still rampant in the Third World in 1987, with 35,685 cases reported by 168 countries. As a consequence of this ongoing tragedy, Rotary International declared war on polio as part of a global campaign to eradicate the crippling disease.   Steady progress was made over the years, but as with similar eradication campaigns, the last 1% is the hard part.  We seem to have been saying “this close” about our efforts to eradicate polio for ages.

That can be very frustrating.

There have been recent exhilarating successes. The declaration that India was wild polio-free in 2013 gladdened the hearts of all who have contributed to the campaign.

Just when we thought we were getting there, so came the recent reverses. Civil war, poverty and social unrest have created opportunities for polio spot fires to ignite in Syria, Somalia and other places.  These serve as a constant reminder that the main line of defence is a fully protected populace. That requires caring people on the ground delivering vaccine to vulnerable children, often in remote locations and where vaccination teams are sometimes at high personal risk.

Fundraising is key to the ongoing battle with polio.  Two fundraisers that really seem to have captured the collective imagination are:

  • Paul Wilson and the Rotary Club of Grantham built their Swimarathon into an annual global success story that supports swimming events globally.  The Swimarathon has raised nearly $1m for polio eradication since 2012.
  • Past District Governor Mukesh Malhotra and PP Susanne Rea developed the World’s Greatest Meal into an innovative and winning concept. Since WGM kicked off, more than 654 WGM events have seen 23,400 meals served, raising  more than $338,000 .

Globe surrounded by 13 happy faces

Why do these fundraising campaigns work so well?   Social Media!

Paul and Mukesh know their social media stuff and the results are there for all to see. Success!

These fundraisers and many others have raised millions for polio eradication.  Rotarians have also been in action at the sharp end of the eradication program, too, traveling vast distances to personally  deliver lifesaving droplets of vaccine straight to the mouths of at-risk kids.

The 26 years since the Rotary polio eradication campaign started has seen huge progress made.  We’re down to the last, most frustrating  bit and yes, the glamour wore off ages ago. But that’s why we’re Rotarians – we take on the tough jobs.

And as Bill Gates said: “As long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, all children — wherever they live — remain at risk. The stakes are that high.”

Let’s finish the job.

Why Social Media Can’t Be Left to Your PR Director

I have often met Rotary leaders who have nodded thoughtfully when I have explained the benefits of social media and then said “I will get my PR Director to do that”. Although it is important to have division of labour and leaders with the right skills concentrating on the right tasks, social media doesn’t work if it is the sole responsibility of one person alone. In order for something to be social, more than one person has to participate. Of course, not everyone has the confidence to be the main content creator and it is important that the person responsible for managing the club or district pages is able to create the right tone and use their creativity to attract the public’s attention. It can be a very lonely task, however, if that creativity goes unnoticed and unsupported by fellow club members.

Social media works as a PR tool because likes, shares and comments spread the original message beyond the creators own immediate network and into the networks of friend’s friends . If I have 100 friends, and 20 friends like, share, comment on or retweet my post, that will have a greater impact than if only 2 friends did the same.

Stone Skipping
Likes, comments and shares help a post to travel across the web

I often use the analogy of stone skimming or stone skipping, where the stone is a post or update and the world wide web is the pond. If a post doesn’t receive any likes, comments, retweets and shares then it drops straight to the bottom of the web, never to be seen again. Each like, comment, retweet and share helps the post to travel just that little bit further and each splash can attract the attention of new people as it makes it’s way across the web.

Rotary clubs and districts can make the most of the talents of their enthusiastic and creative marketing/PR Directors by empowering them to be the key content creator, while also ensuring that it is the responsibility of all members to be content sharers.

Another example is events. Have you ever walked past an empty restaurant and decided not to go in? The same thing happens for Facebook events- people don’t join events that look empty. If you receive an invitation from your club or district, respond to it. If you can’t attend, invite your other friends before you decline but also leave a short note expressing your regrets and encouraging others to join the fun.

To build your confidence in sharing content, log into the system and observe what other people do. Ask questions in the Rotarians on Social Networks member groups (make sure you join at http://rosnf.net first). Keep your comments positive and always apply the four way test. Set yourself a goal of logging in and responding to event invites and sharing club news at least once a week. Or invest in a smartphone so you can do it on the move. Your PR Director will be much happier, but more importantly your network is likely to become more aware of and engaged in your Rotary activities and over the medium to long term this will convert to new members, funds and support.

Using Social Media to Boost your Fundraising Efforts

Social media has matured substantially over the past 14 years, with most users now accepting, and being more likely to trust, social networking as an effective way to communicate. This has led to it becoming easier to use social media to assist with fundraising efforts, both for well planned projects as well as more immediate needs such as disaster relief.

Rapid Response Disaster Relief

In January 2011, we had terrible flooding which affected most of the state of Queensland in Australia. Rotaractors tweeted and used their Facebook statuses to spread news that District 9830 in the state of Tasmania was getting donations made through them matched dollar for dollar through the local state government, up to a maximum of $250,000.

I saw the news on Facebook and helped spread that news through my own accounts, including my business Twitter accounts, and through the Rotary Facebook pages that I administer.

I announced it at my club meeting on Wednesday that week, two days later, along with news that Shelterbox already had personnel on the ground assessing needs; I had seen that news on Facebook as I follow the Shelterbox Australia page. At a district function on the Friday evening, I heard a fellow club member repeat the information to a Rotarian in another club, who asked how I had heard the news so quickly. It took my district a month to decide how to respond to the disaster and communicate that to the clubs; in the mean time, many of us had donated funds through the district in Tasmania.

District 9830 raised AUS$911,000, which is double the combined total raised by three other service clubs in Tasmania. That speaks volumes about the benefit of using social media to rapidly spread the word about how to help at a time when people are eager to help out and are looking for how best to help. The money was used to build a replacement community centre at Murphys Creek in the Lockyer Valley.

Photo courtesy Rotary District 9830

Fundraising Events

Another fundraising success story is the Rotary Global Swimarathon, coordinated by the Rotary Club of Grantham, UK. Contacts made by reaching out to clubs via Facebook and Twitter and regular promotion and updates saw 5,244 swimmers from 104 clubs in 23 countries setting a new world record for the highest number of simultaneous swimmers at on 23 February 2012, raising over US$100,000 for polio eradication in the process.

Again, they used multiple channels: Rotarian Paul Wilson from the Grantham club made heavy use of his personal profile to reach out to Rotarians and clubs on a personal level. He also used his club’s Facebook page, a dedicated Facebook page for the Swimarathon, a twitter account, a website, and a blog, to provide regular updates and communications with stakeholders. It has now become an annual event, with more and more clubs coming on board every year. In 2013, participation rose to 6103 swimmers from 186 clubs in 36 countries, with a total of US$111,081 raised, and this year a total of $116,700 was raised from 210 clubs.

Photo courtesy Balasubramaniam Sokalimgam

But it’s not all about you…

As easy as it is to reach out via social media, it is important to strike a balance between getting your message out to as many people as possible and spamming them with too many updates or filling their newsfeed with your stuff. People will tune you out if you are in their face with what you want to blurt out rather than taking time to build engaging relationships within your channels first.

If you would like assistance with using social media to boost your fundraising activities, we’re here to help – with ideas, or practical support on how to build up relationships with key stakeholders and make effective use of various channels available.

How have you used social media for fundraising?

Social Networking Is Changing Lives

Past #ROSNF Chair 2011-12 Don Higgins wrote  this topical paper recently on the potential of social networking to help bring peace to our world. Don is currently spearheading an anti-bullying campaign through the Rotarian Action Group for Peace and invites Rotarians and Rotaractors to read the paper and consider supporting the campaign.

Kero O’Shea
Chair 2013-14

Facebook Ad Membership Drive

In June 2012, the Rotary Club of Willetton, District 9465, Western Australia, finished its first ever Facebook Ad campaign.

The aim of the campaign was to gain new members, not simply gain awareness of Rotary. As such the ads took people to a landing page built specifically for that purpose on the club’s website at http://rotarywilletton.org.au/index.php?section=about rather than encouraging people to “Like” the Facebook page.

Rather than aiming to maximising the clicks, the ads were worded and audiences carefully targeted by age, profession, location, interests, beliefs etc to limit exposure to people thought to be qualified for membership and more likely to take action to eventually join Rotary.

The landing page emphasised that commitment is required, but that in return you have fun and feel good. The club specifically did not want to say things like “attendance is not really that important” or “it really does not take time”, choosing instead to rule out anyone not willing to make an ongoing commitment.

Investing AUD $500 (1:1 with the USD) on pay per click ads going through to a targeted landing page generated:

  • 1.5 million impressions to 120,000 people in 4-5 weeks
  • 430 clicks that resulted in 5 enquiries, 2 of whom have since joined, 2 more are being followed up and the 5th is looking first for a closer club.

15 different versions of the ad were used, targeted to different audiences. By far the best performing ads were two directed to women 25-55 years old within 15km of the meeting location. All 5 people that contacted the Willetton club were women that clicked the first of those ads. Ads targeting small business owners and young adults aged 27 – 37 years old who have completed university studies were also popular in terms of clicks, but none of them resulted in a visit to the club.

Compared with previous attempts with fliers in the local newspaper, at a cost of around AUD $3,000, which reached about 30,000 people and resulted in one new member, this was considered to be a far more successful approach at a fraction the price.